Ollie Johnston, R.I.P.
April 15, 2008 6:07 AM   Subscribe

The last of Disney's Nine Old Men, Ollie Johnston, has passed away at the age of 95. His work at Disney on several classic features and his books with Frank Thomas (The Illusion of Life in particular), have long been inspiring to animators like myself. He was one of the great ones, and will be missed.
posted by May Kasahara (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry to hear that. I went through a classic Disney animation phase about 20 (?!) years ago. I have a couple of the books had did with Thomas and still have them: The Illusion of Life you mentioned and Too Funny For Words: Disney's Greatest Sight Gags. The Illusion of Life was pretty big deal when it came out, lavish, expensive coffee-table books about cartoons weren't very common then.

posted by marxchivist at 6:15 AM on April 15, 2008


(There's no school like the old school.)
(and if this gets posted in the wrong thread again, by gum the Internet President is going to hear about it.)
posted by Spatch at 6:17 AM on April 15, 2008

. | . _ . | . _ . | .

(That's a series of dots doing a stretching/squashing dance, in case you couldn't tell.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:22 AM on April 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

This man gave mountains of joy. Thank you, Ollie!
posted by Dizzy at 6:37 AM on April 15, 2008

posted by Thorzdad at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2008


I'm a hobbyist animator and have long admired Disney's work (if not necessarily the content). Of course, my favorite stuff tends to be the older shorts like Mickey's Trailer, The Band Concert, Magician Mickey, and The Old Mill. None of which Ollie had anything to do with! But of course the feature films he worked on, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio, helped establish animation as a viable feature-length form and would not have been what they were without him. RIP Ollie, and thank you fo many happy hours spent under the spell of paint and ink on celluloid.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:45 AM on April 15, 2008


A time when Disney had a soul.
posted by billypilgrim at 6:51 AM on April 15, 2008

posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:53 AM on April 15, 2008

I'm not that much of an animation geek, but after seeing The Incredibles, I wondered who those guys were. The Internet came to my rescue, and I hadn't realized how much they contributed to animation as a whole. Thank you, Ollie, and the other eight fine gentlemen.
posted by mephron at 6:59 AM on April 15, 2008

Cartoon Brew has a pretty extensive roundup of all the sites paying tribute to this remarkable man.

Here's a list of all the films he animated on and another with all the shorts he animated on.

There's also the episode of the Disney Family Album dedicated to him on Youtube. You can see the animation he's responsible for, hear from the man himself and also from his peers.
posted by unsupervised at 6:59 AM on April 15, 2008

The end of an era, indeed. I'm just glad that Ollie had such a long and productive life. His work, and that of all "the Nine" will be immortal. It is somewhat fashionable these days to denigrate Walt Disney, but he and his artists inspired the world. I know I owe my lifetime love of animated film to them.

Thanks for posting this sad news, May.
posted by rdone at 7:16 AM on April 15, 2008

Thank you Ollie for all the inspiration.
posted by dabitch at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2008

There's a good documentary available on DVD about him and fellow animator (and next-door neighbor) Frank Thomas: Frank and Ollie.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 1:24 PM on April 15, 2008


Thanks for everything, Mr. Johnston.
posted by mogget at 2:30 PM on April 15, 2008


Oh dear, this brings mist to my eyes. His mark in the annals of Animation aside, he was a beautiful person.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:44 PM on April 15, 2008

Frank and Ollie was a charming film. The friendship between those two talented animators was incredible. They both seemed like such sweet gentlemen.

Here's one of my favorite remembrances of him.

posted by missmerrymack at 4:15 PM on April 15, 2008

Err, well, I worded that clumsily. Not my remembrance, but someone's remembrance. Anyway...

Here's another sweet one.
posted by missmerrymack at 5:11 PM on April 15, 2008

I never knew about the brain trust that allowed such magic to occur. Thanks so much for the post.

posted by skepticallypleased at 6:58 PM on April 15, 2008

posted by evilcolonel at 11:12 PM on April 15, 2008

The video at the end of the link unsupervised provided to gives a wonderful explanation of why Disney animation from the 40s had so much more "heart" than the stuff that's churned-out, factory-style these days. It's in the little details you probably won't ever notice, but give a scene authenticity. You really have to get inside the heads of your characters to pull that stuff out.

That's all, folks!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:39 AM on April 16, 2008

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posted by 6am at 3:16 AM on April 16, 2008

That... was awesome, 6am.

It's great to hear that someone got into Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson from their guest appearance in the Incredibles. Did you know Brad Bird puts them in every movie he makes? They're in the Iron Giant. i actually don't know where they are in Ratatouille, but they gotta be there.

It's sad to see another legend leave us.
posted by Miles Long at 11:29 AM on April 16, 2008

IF YOU interviewed Ollie Johnston in the last years of his life, sooner or later he would start to change. The trim body, lean as a whippet's, would begin to prowl and strut, then round on you with an accusing, pointing arm, just like the evil prosecutor in “Toad of Toad Hall”. Or he would cock his head, gyrate it, fidget and twitch, for all the world like the rabbit Thumper as he explains to Bambi why he doesn't like clover greens. He would skip and stumble to play little Penny carrying a slithering cat in “The Rescuers”, or tilt stiffly from side to side like a waiter-penguin from “Mary Poppins”.

All these vignettes, performed in his 80s with a young man's grace, had come from decades of observation. For the plump, elderly Good Fairies in “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) Mr Johnston and Frank Thomas, his lifelong friend and fellow animator, would lurk behind little old ladies in the supermarket, noting how they bounced as they walked and how they pinned up their hair. For “101 Dalmatians” (1961), in which he drew the parent-dogs Pongo and Perdita, he studied every nuance of ears, noses, flanks and tails. Dog-nous had helped him too in his first job as an assistant animator, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), in which Dopey's paw-flapping stupidity was based on hound behaviour.
From The Economist's obituary of Ollie Johnston.
posted by Kattullus at 11:10 AM on April 25, 2008

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